"I mean this. The person whom you speak of as a nobleman was presented to me as 'Mr. Vincent, an artist.' But for that deception I should never have set foot in your ladyship's house."
"Is this true, my lord?" Lady Howel asked, with a contemptuous emphasis on the title of nobility.
"Quite true," her husband answered. "I thought it possible that my rank might prove an obstacle in the way of my hopes. The blame rests on me, and on me alone. I ask Mrs. Evelin to pardon me for an act of deception which I deeply regret."
Lady Howel was a just woman. Under other circumstances she might have shown herself to be a generous woman. That brighter side of her character was incapable of revealing itself in the presence of Mrs. Evelin, young and beautiful, and in possession of her husband's heart. She could say, "I beg your pardon, madam; I have not treated you justly." But no self-control was strong enough to restrain the next bitter words from passing her lips. "At my age," she said, "Lord Howel will soon be free; you will not have long to wait for him."
The young widow looked at her sadly--answered her sadly.
"Oh, my lady, your better nature will surely regret having said that!"
For a moment her eyes rested on Beaucourt, dim with rising tears. She left the room--and left the house.
There was silence between the husband and wife. Beaucourt was the first to speak again.